Mossad document leaked to Al Jazeera
February 23, 2015 10:38 pm
Mossad Leak Casts Doubt On Iran Warnings
Geoff Dyer in Washington and John Reed in Jerusalem
Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu
©Reuters Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu
As nuclear talks with Iran reach a crunch point, a leaked Mossad intelligence report has cast doubt on some of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s past warnings about Tehran’s nuclear program.
The Mossad assessment of Iran’s nuclear activities from October 2012, part of a large cache of documents leaked to Al Jazeera, appeared to contradict important elements of a dramatic presentation that Mr Netanyahu had given to the UN General Assembly a month earlier.
The leak comes just a week before the Israeli leader is due to speak before a joint session of the US Congress to warn about the risks of “a bad deal” with Iran amid high tension with the White House. The Obama administration has publicly accused Israel’s government of leaking selective details about the nuclear negotiations with Iran in a “distorted” manner.
The publication also coincides with an upcoming Israeli election, due on March 17, in which Mr Netanyahu’s center-left challenger Isaac Herzog and his Zionist Union party are seeking to deny the long-serving Israeli leader a fourth term in office.
Speaking to the UN in September 2012, Mr Netanyahu won global attention for his warnings about Iran’s nuclear programme when he produced a cartoon drawing of a bomb.
He highlighted three stages for developing uranium for a bomb — a first stage of low-enriched uranium, which Iran reached several years ago, a medium stage of uranium enriched to 20 per cent and a final stage of 90 per cent enrichment that produces weapons-grade uranium.
In his New York speech, Mr Netanyahu said Iran was months away from producing enough uranium enriched to 20 per cent for a bomb and would then start the final stage of enrichment.
“By next spring, at most by next summer at current enrichment rates, they will have finished the medium enrichment [20 per cent] and move on to the final stage,” he said. “From there, it is only a few months, possibly a few weeks, before they get enough enriched uranium for the first bomb.”
The leaked Mossad assessment of Iran’s nuclear program was written a month later and agrees with Mr Netanyahu’s broader claim, asserting that “Iran continues to improve its enrichment abilities”, including through the potential introduction of more advanced centrifuges.
However, it provides a much more cautious assessment of the program on two crucial points. The Mossad document says the “amount of 20 per cent enriched uranium is not increasing” after some of it was allocated to produce nuclear fuel. The document also concluded that Iran “does not appear to be ready to enrich it to higher levels”.
A senior Israeli government official on Monday evening denied that the leaked document contradicted Mr Netanyahu’s speech. “The central theme of the prime minister’s 2012 UN speech was that continued Iranian enrichment is creating the ‘explosive material’, ie enriched uranium, for a nuclear bomb,” the official said.
“Even [the] alleged quotes from the Mossad state plainly that Iran is ‘working to close gaps in areas that appear legitimate such as enrichment, reactors, which will reduce the time required to produce weapons from the time the instruction is actually given’,” the official said.
Speaking at the weekend, Mr Netanyahu warned again that the US was close to signing a “bad deal” with Iran. “The coming month is critical for the nuclear talks between Iran and the major powers because a framework agreement is liable to be signed that will allow Iran to develop the nuclear capabilities that threaten our existence,” he said.
He added that he would go to Congress to explain “why this agreement is dangerous for Israel, the region and the entire world”.